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A selfless act of kindness helps a local merchant -- and provides a needed service to his customers

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Woodstock resident Steve Maxwell, now stricken with ALS, had used the Woodstock Laundry for forty years when he decided to make his generous offer. These days, kindness sometimes seems to be too rare, and at a premium. But one recent neighborhood example gives hope about the goodness that is still out there.

For the two years that John Torrey has owned the Woodstock Laundry at S.E. 48th and Woodstock Boulevard, he has made a lot of improvements in the well-used facility – including installing new equipment and maintaining a much higher level of overall cleanliness.

But one thing that had continued to bother him was that the door on the east side opened in only one direction. He watched clients with full laundry baskets struggle to get out the door leading to 48th Avenue; some people could not manage to open the door and would have to set their basket down – only to be be struck by the door as it swung shut behind them.

He realized that a "full-swing door", like his door on the north side, could solve the problem. But after adding new machines and doing repairs, that kind of door was a stretch for his recent budget. Then, one day, a longtime Woodstock Laundry user stepped forward to help.

Steve Maxwell, a Woodstock resident who had used the self-service laundry once a week for forty years, was diagnosed last year with ALS – commonly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease". As the disease progressed, he became more frustrated trying to get out the east door, and would have to use the north door.

Over the past few months Maxwell stopped driving and was no longer able to come to the laundry. Then one day, Woodstock Laundry owner John, who has a medical background, visited Maxwell at his home to discuss the details of ALS, and to help Maxwell find appropriate care – eventually, in an adult foster care home.

During that visit Maxwell said to John, "You know, since I have been disabled, I really realize how important that 'full-swing door' would be. Things are going pretty well for me, and you have done so much for Woodstock Laundry, I would like to offer you $2,800 for that door."

John was taken aback by the gracious suggestion, but also realized that this gesture of magnanimity fit well with the kind of person Maxwell is. A longtime member of Kiwanis – a nonprofit community service organization that helps children – Maxwell had always helped with fundraisers for the service group and contributed his time and energy.

Now, even though homebound, it gave Maxwell pleasure to be able donate the full-swing door for the self-service laundry that he had used for four decades.

John reports that in addition to being generous and "a really nice guy", Maxwell is a Vietnam Veteran, and has always kept a positive attitude about having ALS. He rarely complains, even nowadays when the disease makes it difficult to speak.

John has had a plaque made with Maxwell's name on it, and has placed on the wall of Woodstock Laundry next to that full-swing door.


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